London—According to a recent study conducted by Cancer Research UK and the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and published in the British Journal of Cancer, a whopping one in 17 British carpenters who were born in the 1940s will die from mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, although rates are increasing. In over 90 percent of cases, its origin can be directly traced to the inhalation of asbestos fibers, and so workers in any industry which may have used asbestos for insulation or fireproofing – such as construction, shipbuilding and pipefitting – have a higher risk than the general population for developing this disease.
In the study, which is the largest global study of its kind ever conducted, more than 600 mesothelioma patients and 1,400 healthy participants were interviewed. The researchers discovered that men who were born in the years 1940-1949, and who worked as carpenters for more than 10 years before age 30, have a lifetime mesothelioma risk of one in 17. Plumbers, electricians and decorators who fit the same demographic have a one in 50 chance of developing the asbestos cancer, and other construction workers have a one in 250 risk.
Additionally, the study revealed that two-thirds of all British men, and a quarter of women, had worked in occupations that may have exposed them to asbestos. Since mesothelioma can also be contracted through secondhand exposure, those who lived with a spouse with exposure to asbestos also had a slightly increased risk of contracting the cancer.
Mesothelioma is a particularly tricky disease, because it can remain latent in the body for up to 50 years without showing symptoms. When it does become symptomatic, the shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing may lead some patients – and their doctors – to suspect other diseases besides mesothelioma, like emphysema and bronchitis. If you have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to let your doctor know.
Currently, mesothelioma is considered incurable, although there are some treatment options to help alleviate symptoms and pain, and to manage the spread of the disease.